Ukraine dissolves parliament ahead of talks

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KIEV/MOSCOW: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dissolved parliament late on Monday and set early elections for October 26, on the eve of his expected meeting on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The early parliamentary elections are part of my peace plan,” Poroshenko said in his announcement late on Monday.

The “key element” is political dialogue with pro-Russian sepa–ratists in eastern Ukraine, he said.

The dissolution of parliament fulfilled one of Poroshenko’s campaign promises in the May presidential election. Surveys have shown 80 percent of Ukrainians in support of early elections.


“The ballot is the most powerful weapon wielded by citizens to defend the country,” Poroshenko said.

He and Putin are expected to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine, during a summit of the Russia-led Customs Union on Tuesday in Belarus. It will be their second face-to-face meeting since the Ukraine crisis erupted in February with pro-Moscow rebels following the toppling of the Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the bloc’s energy and trade commissioners will also attend the meeting, which is politically sen-sitive in part because of the venue.

The EU has placed sanctions against Belarus, which it repeatedly criticized over human rights violations and disrespect for democratic principles.

Ashton’s spokesman Maja Kocijancic stressed that Tuesday’s visit is not a bilateral visit to Belarus but an “ad-hoc meeting in a particular context.”

Russia defied western criticism by announcing on Monday that it will send a second aid convoy to areas in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatist rebels.

The new convoy should head this week to Ukraine with the same conditions and the same route as the first, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

The EU and the United States condemned Russia’s decision on Friday to send an aid convoy of more than 200 lorries to the eastern city of Luhansk without Ukrainian permission and without participation by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The vehicles crossed back over the border Saturday into Russia. Ukraine, which had earlier voiced suspicion that the lorries were smuggling military supplies, later charged that on its way out the convoy had taken sensitive radar equipment from a Luhansk factory.

Lorries shown to journalists last week before crossing into Ukraine were almost empty inside.

“The first convoy delivered its cargo exactly and without incidents, which gives us reason to believe that the second will pass even more smoothly,” Lavrov said.

Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said on Monday that government forces repelled an armed incursion from Russian territory in the Donetsk region.

A convoy with 10 tanks and two armored personnel carriers crossed the border at daybreak near the coastal border town of Novoazovsk, council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said. Lysenko described the convoy as “Russian military disguised as separatist fighters.”

Andrei Purgin, a leader of the separatists in Donetsk, denied the allegation. He told the Interfax news agency that only rebels were fighting in Novoazovsk.

MCT

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